What is a Wishbone, and Why is It Supposed to Be Lucky?
Thanksgiving, one of the most beloved holidays of Americans and Canadians, is a time to show gratitude for what you have in life. Besides that, Thanksgiving is also about tradition and out of all the Thanksgiving traditions, cracking a wishbone is a fairly popular one. The reason behind its popularity is based on a belief that carrying out the wishbone tradition brings good luck.
However, what a wishbone really is and why it is supposed to bring good luck – remains unknown to most. You may also question if it is just a folklore or does the practice have some kernel of truth to it? So, here we are, ready to help you unravel the mystery behind the wishbone tradition!
What is a Wishbone?
The scientific or the formal name of a wishbone would be furcula. Now, a wishbone is a bone, shaped like a fork, positioned between the neck and breast of a bird. This justifies its name being furcula which means “little fork” in Latin. The fork shape is a result of the clavicles (also known as collarbones) of the bird joining together at the sternum. In other words, the clavicles in birds are fused or joint.
The clavicles or furculas are not just unique to birds. Many other animals tend to have it – humans included. The human clavicles are different in the way that the two bones in our body are not fused together. The birds have it structured that way because it helps to support their thoracic skeleton when they are flying. It is even common in some species of dinosaurs.
Where is the Wishbone in a Turkey?
Most people tend to get confused about the location of the wishbone but the fused clavicles (furcula) are very easy to find in the bird. It is always situated between the neck and the breast of the turkey. But as we mentioned before, it is the same for all birds which includes chickens or geese. So, that should also answer the question “where is the wishbone in a chicken?”
Usually, the wishbone is gotten rid of before the bird is cooked or roasted. This makes it much easier to carve the bird after it has been cooked. The odd shape of the bone usually hinders the process of carving the meat of the bird. However, with the bone gone, it becomes a piece of cake! This is an absolutely great tip for those who are new cooks or plan to host a Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.
Origin of the Wishbone Tradition
This tradition was originally started by the ancient Romans who pulled apart the wishbones of chickens believing that the act brought them good luck. These birds, during those times, were considered to be oracles that had the powers to predict the future. The ancient Romans of the time believed that if the bones were preserved, it would be possible to acquire the great powers of the chicken even after it being consumed by the people.
One important fact to be noted here is that the ancient Romans themselves picked up the practice from a group of people known as the Etruscans. These were people who were identified as part of an ancient Italian civilization.
As time went by, the wishbone tradition became more famous and approved by a huge number of people. However, as the demand rose for these wishbones, it was found that there were simply not enough wishbones for everybody. And since everyone wanted to gain a good fortune, a solution needed to be found to solve the problem.
This led to the creation of the current tradition of cracking the wishbone in half with two people wishing on the same bone. Upon cracking it in half, whoever was the owner of the bigger part, his wish was fulfilled. If by a miracle both the pieces were of the same size, both the wishes would be fulfilled.
This custom rapidly spread to nearby regions and became popular in England during the 16th century, which back then was more commonly known as the “merrythought”. The Pilgrims of The New World however, practiced the same ritual using the clavicles of wild turkeys, keeping in conformity of the wishbone rule. The reason why the Pilgrims of the New World did not use a chicken’s furcula was simply that wild turkeys were more common in comparison to chicken.
President Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday for the nation in the middle of the 1800s, which is when the word “wishbone” started being used by the mass people. And the word, just like the tradition, has stuck for years after the declaration till now.
One thing common for all these groups of people from the ancient world is that no one knows specifically why they considered the furcula to be a symbol of good luck. Even those who are firm believers of miracles and omens do not know why this particular bone was used. They just have great faith on it but even then, the tradition lacks a plausible explanation and backstory.
How a Wishbone Needs to Used
Breaking a wishbone is not as simple as it may sound to some people. Before you can crack it, it has to be made brittle and dry enough to be snapped easily. This is usually done by putting the bone under the sun which dries it up. But if you wish to do it in a more efficient and modern way, you may as well put it inside an oven. A wishbone from a raw chicken or a turkey will be tough to crack. This also applies for a recently cooked turkey or chicken the wishbone of which will still be hard to snap.
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Hence, it would definitely not be possible to carry out this tradition at your Thanksgiving dinner. But it is guaranteed that you will get to make a wish and crack the bone with a close one by your side! Even if you do not get the bigger piece, your loved one definitely will.
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Does it Actually Work?
With all that said, one question must have come to your mind – does wishing on a bird’s bone really bring good luck? The answer to this is obviously that all of this is based on folklore and it is not necessary that it will come true. Most families do this just for the sake of keeping up traditions and enjoying the holiday as it is. Hence, it is safe to say that this may not be what brings you good luck. But in case it does work, then congratulations! You just got lucky!